We’ve all had that guilty fantasy where the naked 330-pound man tackles you to the carpet and makes you plead for mercy, and according to Alvin Gentry the 2008 Phoenix Suns were lucky enough to share the experience. Words from the ex-head coach and current Golden State Warriors assistant (as reported by Yahoo):
“The thing that he (Shaquille O’Neal) did that he got to be notorious for is that, every few days or every week or so, he would decide that it was time for this Brazilian naked wrestling contest.”
“You would never know who the chosen one was, but what would happen when you least expect it, this seven-foot, 310-pound guy would turn the corner, and he would be stark naked and he would run right at you full speed, grab you, he would take you to the floor and then he would do about five rollovers with you. And he would always tell our trainers who it was going to be, so they were always prepared for it, but you never knew who it was going to be.”
“Yes I was a victim of this. I had to go to therapy a bit after that.”
The Suns acquired O’Neal in February 2008 in part to slow down Tim Duncan in the playoffs, which may have been the Diesel’s motivation to instill his brand of “physicality” in the locker room. Especially considering how the Big Cactus credited Phoenix for regaining his health (and a renaissance All-Star season), it was his obligation to make the boys tougher. Don’t forget Terry Porter was fired 31 games into the 2008-09 season (and O’Neal was traded the next offseason), so we should assume Gentry’s predecessor took in the action too.
O’Neal has practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitzu since 2000, so it’s likely his teammates never stood a chance. Looking over the roster, Steve Nash and Leandro Barborsa were probably swallowed whole while Robin Lopez grew up quickly. O’Neal may have prematurely ended Stromile Swift’s career, but Grant Hill took it on as another impossible challenge. When you ask where and how Goran Dragic became so cold and merciless, you can point to this period.
When you note all the sweaty, sleeveless men O’Neal has forcefully backed down in a 19-year NBA career, Gentry’s story shouldn’t come as a surprise. Anyone who’s used or stalked a dressing room knows this wasn’t the first time a little tomfoolery occurred, and certainly not the last.
Photo Credit: Getty Images